Posted by: workforcookies | April 20, 2010

Birthday wishes

As a working mom, I make the choice to be away from my children 11 hours a day, four days a week. Of course, as any working mom will tell you, it’s not that black-and-white and there are questions as to how much choice is actually involved. Regardless, this is what I do.

Because I feel like 11 hours a day, four days a week is quite enough time to spend away from my children, I’m rarely found in the office outside those hours. And I have a strict rule about seeing my children (awake!) at least once a day. They are usually asleep when I leave for work, but wide awake (and clamoring for dinner) when I get home. If I ever need to attend a work event in the evening, I go in late. That way I can spend time with my kids in the morning— because I know they’ll be asleep when I return home. But this year, my son’s birthday presented an interesting dilemma.

I work in a creative field in a company that is large enough to have it’s own version of the Oscar’s. There’s a big to-do about it every year, a dressy award ceremony in the evening with champagne and caviar. Or so I’m told, I’ve never been high enough on the food chain to receive an invitation … until this year. My invite came via e-mail and I quickly pulled up my calendar to mark the date, that’s when I first noticed that the date was the same as my son’s birthday. I couldn’t possibly miss him blowing out his candles. But after sending my regrets, my bosses assistant came to me and said it was important for me to attend the award ceremony. I explained the problem. She shifted back and forth nervously and repeated: “It’s very important that you attend the AWARD ceremony.”

“Oh,” I said, finally catching on. I’ve never been so unhappy to win something in all my life!

So I pulled from some of my best (albeit fledgeling) parenting skills to work myself out of this tight spot: resourcefulness, creativity and compromise. I decided that my son would blow out his candles in the morning—a top a Belgian waffle loaded with strawberries and whipped cream. Then I got busy lining up a babysitter for the evening and convincing my husband that he would have to get out of bed early on the day (perhaps the more difficult task—my husband likes his sleep).

As the day approached, I worried and worried that my son would feel slighted. In my mind’s eye I saw a snapshot of him blowing out four candles on a lonely chocolate cupcake with nobody but the babysitter at his side. Was I making a selfish decision? Why couldn’t my company have their version of the Oscars on some other day—ANY other day??? But on the day, my son was perfectly happy with the early morning celebration. He didn’t really remember his birthday from the previous year, and seemed completely unaware that a birthday waffle wasn’t the norm. He was all smiles as he opened his gifts and wiped a smear of whipped cream off his cheek.

The award I received was the second one to be announced. I was able to toast my other co-workers, down a glass of champagne (who needs caviar?) then slip out an hour later after the Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted. (Did I mention, this ceremony is like the Oscars?) I grabbed some cupcakes at the bakery in the train station, and made it home in time to see my son blow out candles again! As I tucked him in bed, I realized all was well. “I love you so much. I’m so happy,” he said before drifting off to sleep.

All that worry I’d been holding onto melted along with my idea that there’s only one way to celebrate a birthday!



  1. This had me laughing and getting tears in my eyes at the same time! I loved your line, “I’ve never been so unhappy to win something in all my life.” But I think you summed it all up at the end, with the thought that there are lots of ways to celebrate a birthday! Living an unconventional life ourselves, we have had to embrace that philosophy as well. We have also had candles in our waffles!

  2. Oh, congrats on the award!

  3. Such a great mom! It’s always interesting when our kids have different (and sometimes lower!) expectations than ours. I know sweet Pete loves seeing you and feeling that amazing love you pour on him. Might even make it to his “favorite memory” list. 🙂 Way to go!

    And a big congrats on the award! Seems you’re making a difference at your job and enjoying success. Atta girl! So fun watching the Lord open doors!

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